By Sgt. 1st Class Julius Clayton (FORSCOM)April 2, 2018
FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 2, 2018) -- More than 200 Soldiers from 39 states competed for titles and bragging rights in the 2018 U.S. Army Small Arms Championships March 11 through 18.
The annual competition, better known as the "All Army," is hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) in conjunction with the Maneuver Center of Excellence with the mission of advancing marksmanship across the Army.
The weeklong competition included cadets and Soldiers from all components of the U.S. Army -- active duty, National Guard and Reserve -- all vying for top honors.
Sgt. Justus Densmore, Texas Army National Guard, seized the Overall All Army Individual Champion title with the highest aggregate score from all the individual matches.
The Missouri Army National Guard seized the All Army Championship Team title after taking first in the pistol team competition category and second in both the multigun and rifle team categories. Team members included 1st Sgt. James Phelps, Staff Sgt. Jerry Dement, Sgt. David Ball and Staff Sgt. Michael Richey. Richey was also the team's coach. The Iowa Army National Guard Team earned the Rifle Team Champion title while U.S. Army Alaska took the Multigun Team Champion title.
The annual event didn't start off with the Soldiers competing though. First, they received some training from USAMU coaches, instructors and competitive shooters who provided both a rifle and pistol Small Arms Firing School (SAFS) to all competitors, as well as other assistance throughout the weeklong competition.
"This competition allows us [USAMU] to give these Soldiers information and training techniques that they can take back to their units," said Swanton, Ohio, native Sgt. Ben Cleland, who is a USAMU shooter/instructor with the Service Rifle Team. "They can then disseminate the knowledge learned here back to their formations, which in turn raises the marksmanship level across the entire Army."
Spc. Reece Tillman, squad automatic weapon (SAW) gunner, 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C. said he plans on taking away lessons from his experience back to his unit.
"I definitely want to go back to my unit and teach the new Soldiers, and even those who are just struggling with their marksmanship skills, all the valuable lessons I have learned this week from the USAMU," he said
The comprehensive live-fire training tested the Soldiers' ability to employ both their primary and secondary weapon systems, solve problems and think critically under the stresses created by competition.
"You realize that staging an event like this allows us [USAMU] to give back and enhance the entire Army as a whole in a positive manner," said Cleland, "and that is extremely rewarding."
"Being at an event like the All Army helps me increase my skill level in marksmanship, which will in turn assist me in teaching the next generation of Soldiers how to be better warriors," said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Radhames Delgado, drill sergeant candidate from Echo Company, 3rd Battalion, 485th Regiment (Infantry One Station Unit Training), 1st Brigade, 98th Training Division (Initial Entry Training).
While the All Army featured the elements and spirit of competition, the critical intent of the competition-in-arms program is to develop combat firing skills and recognize superior skills, all while raising the standards of marksmanship and increasing combat readiness across the force.
"We are able to use the information, knowledge and skills we gain during All Army and bring it back to our own units to teach and train other Soldiers and increase the marksmanship levels throughout the force," said Illinois National Guard Sgt. Adam Mathis.
"Being able to come to an event like All Army allows me as a cadet -- and future officer -- to learn more about the Army in general," said Nicholas Harmon, cadet at Texas A&M University. "I am able to talk to all types of Soldiers from active duty, National Guard and Reserves, and get their perspectives. I think this helps prepare me to be a better leader."
Competitors experience diverse levels of marksmanship during the All Army and competed as individuals and on four-person teams in events like pistol and rifle excellence in competition matches, combat rifle and pistol matches and multigun courses of fire.
"I really enjoyed the multigun match," Harmon said. "It allows you to bring all the skills you gained and enhanced throughout the week, from the Small Arms Firing School, to competing in all the other pistol and rifle matches. It all culminates in how you perform during this match."
"The clinics the USAMU gave after each match, especially the pistol matches for me personally, really helped in refreshing you on your fundamentals of marksmanship," said U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Augustine Ohaeri, drill sergeant from Alpha Company, 3/485th, "and you could apply those lessons learned immediately the next day in matches and see your improvement."
Soldiers competed in separate classes -- consisting of cadet, novice, open and professional -- based on previous competition experience. This was the first time some of these Soldiers had ever competed in a marksmanship match and it helped open their eyes to what is available for Soldiers to enhance their marksmanship skills and increase their combat readiness, according to Ohaeri. "Coming to events like All Army definitely broadens your horizons as a Soldier, it gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to try something new."
"This is my first time at All Army and this competition exceeded my expectations," said Harmon. "I am blown away by the professionalism and knowledge of everyone out here. It is a great competition!"
The All Army wrapped up the week's events with an award ceremony to recognize all those who demonstrated the highest standards while competing.
"The All Army is one of our unit's [USAMU] best contributions to the Army; it fosters a competitive spirit, increases marksmanship skills, and enhances combat readiness and effectiveness," said Cleland. "This event can provide units their best opportunity to experience high-level marksmanship knowledge, broaden their experiences and aid in their development as Army warriors."
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) wins national and international shooting competitions, supports Army marketing engagements, and advances small-arms lethality to demonstrate Army marksmanship capability, connect America to its Army and enhance marksmanship effectiveness in combat. USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Marketing Engagement Brigade and Army Marketing and Research Group.
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